“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your Faith Goodness; and to Goodness, Knowledge; and to Knowledge, Self-Control; and to Self-Control, Perseverance; and to Perseverance, Godliness; and to Godliness, Mutual Affection; and to Mutual Affection, Love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:5-8
Wow. Week 9 already? It’s hard to believe that we’ve come to the end of the challenge. Whether I expected to or not, I learned something every week and was expecting this final stretch to be enlightening and hit me like a bolt of lightning, and I would be struck with immense insight (and some potential third-degree burns). Nonetheless, I fully anticipated to go out with a bang. I mean, the end of these nine weeks had to be epic, right? I found the verse above and thought that it was so appropriate for our final week, since it basically covers the transition from each Fruit of the Spirit and says that they help us to be productive in our knowledge. I highly recommend reading this a few times and just letting it sink in.
I went through the list of obvious manifestations of self-control the first few days. I tried to keep from being rebellious, to be kinder to others even when I didn’t want to, and watch what I said more, saving the sailor’s mouth for football games only … Just kidding (I mean, I can still kiss my mother, and all). But I worked pretty hard to curb what I said to others and try to only speak positive things. Let me tell ya, not always that easy. At the beginning of Self-Control, someone said something that normally would make my blood boil and receive a snarky remark. It was on the tip of my tongue, but then I suddenly remembered Self-Control. I’ll tell you that it required quite a bit of ye ol’ Control as I took a deep breath, exhaled, and actually managed to compliment my offender. The strange thing was that it completely threw them and changed their attitude, and I felt surprisingly good over having held my tongue. That was kind of s shocking bit of insight, and after that I worked really hard to watch my tone with others and what I let slip from my lips. But then something occurred to me (of course, it dawned on me last night).
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5
Suddenly it dawned on me that watching what I did on the outside, while very important, wasn’t the only form of Self-Control; I also needed to censor what was on the inside. Taking thoughts captive is much more difficult that simply not saying them aloud. It’s going to take me a while to master my mind, or even get a little hand-hold on it, though I’ve already begun to notice a difference in my thoughts as I try to think only positive and productive things (good news is that all that free space has left me a lot of “productive” room for creative insight for the sequel to Rising Shadows, so YAY!). I’m not saying it’s easy in the least, and sometimes you don’t even realize that you’re entertaining a rebellious or negative thought that even needs to be taken captive, but be encouraged that it does get easier over time when you’re conscious of your thoughts. It might seem like a lot of work for something that probably won’t affect your day-to-day life, but I guarantee those thoughts will eventually leak out into what you do and say later on. So save the space for something productive. Like everything else in this challenge, you’ll be glad you did it.
I cannot believe that we have reached the end of our Fruit of the Spirit Challenge. What an amazing journey it’s been! I hope you all learned as much as I did and maybe even discovered a little something about yourselves that you didn’t know before. And don’t think that this practice round ends here; now the real challenge begins as you take your newfound skills and shed a little light in the world. This last week isn’t the end of the road. No, there is a long road stretching out before you, and these nine weeks were just a little start in the right direction. Which way you go from here is completely up to you…